The Ginn Academy, founded in 2007 by Ted Ginn, Sr., is the only all-male public high school in Ohio. Come in and see what goes on inside the hearts and minds of 655 E. 162nd Street each day. Let us tell you our stories. Photos and text not to be used without permission.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Full Circle: Two GA Alumni Return as a Life Coaches

James Gordon, left in red hat and striped pants, and Antwan Crutcher, with bare head, two of our life coaches and also alumni of Ginn Academy

In 2007, in our very first year as a school, one of our original fifty sophomores was a young man from the Glenville neighborhood who knew Mr. Ginn through football. James Gordon made the decision to follow Coach Ginn to his new school because he liked the solid, confident guidance he was receiving: a life plan, lessons on money management and retirement funds. These were topics a lot of adults didn't even know about.

Despite the naysayers, the doubters, James followed his heart and enrolled at Ginn Academy. "We each had a life plan and as we progressed and started to get closer to our goals, we saw that it was all really happening," he says.

Four years later, in 2010, James graduated as Valedictorian of the first class of The Ginn Academy. He attended the University of Toledo on a full athletic scholarship, graduated with a degree in communications, and was asked by Coach Ginn to come back to Ginn Academy to work as a life coach with a group of 26 freshmen.

James Gordon with three of his freshmen at a college fair in the Ginn Academy gymnasium

Antwan Crutcher, GA life coach and one of the Tarblooder football coaches, played football for Glenville and Ohio University

Graduating a year after James, in GA's class of 2011, was Antwan Crutcher, another young man whose life was profoundly changed when he left his previous school, to follow the path Coach Ginn helped to set for him. "Coach helped me work through a lot of things in my life, so I took a leap of faith," he explains.

Antwan attended Ohio University on a football scholarship, graduated with a communications degree and a sales certificate, and came home to Cleveland to give back to the same community he'd left four years earlier.

Coach Ginn's voice kept coming back to him with the oft-repeated phrases that had helped him get through college, like leave a place better than you found it and leave your mark, put your name on something. "Thinking about all of that, I felt like I had to give back," he says. "This knowledge helped me through and I wanted to give it back to kids in situations like mine."

Life coach James Gordon talking with one of his freshman students

James Gordon, life coach at GA, assists at one of the Tarblooder football practices

Both men seem tailor-made for the job of life coach. Both claim it was a no-brainer to come back to Ginn Academy and work with boys whose lives have so many similarities to their own. "Kids here need people who actually went through what they're going through right now. Us being here as role models is the epitome of hope," says James. "They see us and know that we made it through and so can they."

Antwan realized something in college that has made him want to share his knowledge with kids who are facing a struggle between light and darkness, which is all too familiar to him.  "We're so used to seeing the dark that we're afraid of the light," he says. "We see so much negativity in our living situations -- that's the dark; we know how low things can get. When you see the light, like where we can go in the future, you can't see through the light because it's so bright, so it scares us." The boys often have in common a fear of the unknown and the negativity that makes them think maybe college is too hard for them. They might tend to stay in their comfort zone because, of course, it is comfortable, known. Antwan wants to help them to face these types of fears.

Ninth graders file into their social studies class with life coach Antwan Crutcher keeping a close eye on things

Antwan and James are each responsible for a group of 26 freshmen and will be their life coaches for all four years at Ginn. Their students are 14-15 years old, in their first year of high school and first year in the Ginn program, which is probably quite different from other schools they have attended. Life coaches of ninth graders have unique challenges that go along with a 14-15 year old's level of maturity. Important issues at this age are self control, responsibility, accountability, talking back, conflict with peers, being humble, respecting and dealing with authority, and respecting women.

The life coach must adjust his approach to each boy's individual needs. With a group of 26 kids, each with his own story, they know that, for example, some kids are dealing with disadvantage and loss of parents or caregivers. There are a lot of outside influences and factors. Antwan uses an analogy that Coach Ginn often uses, "The life they live, you can build them up and fill them with positive knowledge, but it's like there's a hole in the cup when they leave school, and we have to keep filling it up again each day. It's easy to confuse a kid. We're always battling negative influences."

In their 24/7 role, life coaches hold an important place in their students' lives. "One problem is that a lot of kids grow up in a home where there's not a lot of discipline being taught. So where else are they going to learn it?" James says. "Coach Ginn always says that we're in a risky business because they're all God's children. We have them for a purpose: to equip them with the proper tools to make sure they're ready to seize every opportunity for success."

A group of freshmen at a college fair in Ginn Academy's gymnasium with life coach James Gordon

Life coach Antwan Crutcher watches a Tarblooder football practice after school

Antwan Crutcher, left, visited GA last spring with fellow GA alum, Richard Dowdley

 With all of the challenges come a whole lot of positives as well, and both Antwan and James agree that seeing progress no matter how small, is the best part of their job. They will be able to make yearly comparisons as time goes by, but at this age, sometimes they're just doing day to day comparisons and that is fine with them. "It's truly a great feeling when you actually see some of the things you're trying to teach coming to life," James says. "That's all you can really ask for. Even if the necktie is straighter today, just the smallest success gives me joy."

Antwan agrees and says, "The biggest positive for me is seeing the growth. A lot of the kids have changed some of their ways; they're trying to see a path. It's hard because they can only think about right now at this age. They are very young and the fact that they're trying and some have changed, is good."

Though still young men themselves, Antwan and James have an incredible amount of knowledge and experience to share. They embody one of the unique characteristics that is nearly uniform at our school: the call to serve, to give back and to help the younger ones on the path behind them to succeed. We are completely grateful to have them at school every day, on the front lines of our mission to guide our kids to reach their full potential.

Thank you for your support of The Ginn Academy.

Kindest regards from all of us